Missouri pig farmer Everett Forkner loves pigs. They’ve been part of his life, in fact, since the day he and his wife, Ruby, established TRULINE® Genetics in 1958. Today, Forkner Farms is a 2,000-acre family farm that includes two sons and one son-in-law. Located in western Missouri, the farm manages a swine breeding stock operation, a premium pork production network, a row-crop operation and a beef breeding stock program. Needless to say, a lot of things have changed in nearly 60 years.
Things have also changed in the pig farming business – mostly for the better, as Forkner recalls, “One of the biggest changes has been in the efficiency of production. Compared to 50 years ago, we are producing a pound of pork on 33 percent less feed.”
Looking at it another way, he explains that, today, one sow will produce as many pounds of pork in a year as it took two sows to produce 50 years ago.
Phil Howerton, a sixth-generation pig farmer who also lives in west-central Missouri, has seen similar advancements in the industry. Citing a history that goes back more than 150 years to when his great-great grandparents established the farm, he recalls, “Like most other old timers in the business, the biggest change was when we evolved with the swine business, moving pigs from being raised outside to being raised in modern barns.”
“It’s still one of the things we, as an industry, are most condemned for, but we have brought the pigs out of the mud, the heat and the cold into an environment in which they can flourish and reach their genetic potential without the physical concerns of staying warm or trying to get cool.”
In fact, the move to a modern farrowing barn several years ago, allowed J. D. Howerton and Sons Farm, where Phil is a managing partner, to immediately increase their farrowing rate by 11.5 percent.
If there is a downside to modern technology, though, it is the fact that Howerton and other pig farmers aren’t able to go to each other’s farms and look at the neighbors’ pigs and barns, because biosecurity is so important to keeping pigs on individual farms healthy.
Still, Everett Forkner contends there is one thing about pig farming that will never change. “Raising pigs isn’t that difficult. They need clean, fresh water. They need plenty of good feed; and they need shelter. If you keep them warm, dry and full, you’ll be successful in the pig business.”